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What are Splanchnic Nerves?

By Misty Wiser
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The splanchnic nerves are the nerves that supply signals and information to and from the visceral organs and blood vessels. They are typically divided into three different categories based on their location in the body. Cardiopulmonary nerves control the organs of the thoracic cavity, carrying messages from the central nervous system to the heart and the lungs. Lumbar nerves are responsible for the signals sent and received by the abdominal digestive organs. Pelvic splanchnic nerves transmit the signals necessary for urination, bowel movements and sexual functions.

Most of the sympathetic nerves of the body are splanchnic. These nerves are carriers of unconscious signals the central nervous system (CNS) sends to regulate the many functions of the body. This includes the ability to form tears, salivate, and digest food. The afferent nerves are sensory nerves that carry the messages to the brain about the sensations the body is experiencing. Efferent nerves are motor nerves that communicate the need for action on the part of the organs or muscles to maintain the efficiency of the human body.

The brain commands the heart and lungs to operate at a peak performance level through the cardiopulmonary nerves. The thoracic cavity is lined with these nerves, and is coordinated with the needs of the rest of the body through the central nervous system. Sensory nerves can detect the oxygen levels of the blood and relay the message to the heart and lungs to adjust accordingly.

Lumbar splanchnic nerves are necessary for the digestion of food through the stomach and into the intestines. These nerves carry signals to the brain to increase or decrease the amount of gastric juices secreted by the stomach at the start of the digestive process. They also control the peristaltic movement of the intestines that encourages food to move through the digestive tract.

Pelvic splanchnic nerves also conclude the digestive process. These nerves signal the bladder to release urine when it has reached capacity. The nerves also detect when a bowel movement has formed, and in turn, signal the nerves in the rectum to relax to allow the passage of the fecal matter. Blood flow to the male genitals necessary for arousal and the completion of the sex act is also regulated by pelvic nerves. In females, these nerves indicate the need for vaginal lubrication and transmits the sensory information necessary for the reproductive organs to function.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Mar 27, 2012

@simrin-- Yea, there is a whole set of nerves that go through the stomach. The stomach upset could be due to the nerves or the main artery there that they are connected to.

@andee-- All of these nerves are connected to each other in one way or another. I have a lumbar herniated disc which puts pressure on one of my nerves there, I think it's called the greater splanchnic nerve.

When my hernia acts up and there is pain in my lower back, the pain is felt all through my leg because the nerve is tied to other nerves which are also located in the legs. So when I have a problem in my back, I can feel it in my feet even.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 26, 2012

@myharley-- Doesn't all this amaze you though? It definitely amazes me to know the millions of different activities that are happening in my body every day so that I can live. The human body is like the most perfect machine and nerves are a very important part of it.

I became aware of my lumbar splanchnic nerves several years ago. Whenever I'm upset and sad, I get a terrible stomach upset. I feel nauseated and can't eat anything. My doctor told me about splanchnic nerves then. He said that we have major nerves that go through the stomach. And when were distressed psychologically, this can impact the nerves and in turn distress and irritate the organs around it.

So when I'm upset, I actually upset my stomach because my emotions impact my nerves. It's really amazing to think about. But of course, I wish I wasn't so sensitive that way. When something is wrong, it's like my stomach gives me away.

By sunshined — On Mar 26, 2012

@myharley - As far as things happening unconsciously, I never think about how my body produces the saliva or tears it needs at the appropriate times.

I think about the times I have tried to hold back tears for some reason, and it never happens. I am probably putting my nerves on some kind of overload when that happens.

I also have problems with acid reflux and digestion. I never even realized I had lumbar splanchnic nerves that are responsible for sending the right signals for my digestive juices to start working.

By myharley — On Mar 25, 2012

@andee - I think because these splanchnic nerves control so many unconscious things is one reason we don't think much about how they are functioning.

If you ever have any type of nerve problem, you realize in a hurry they are there, and how uncomfortable it can be when they aren't functioning like they should.

When I was taking some medical training, the thing the stands out in my mind is how many nerves there are in our bodies, and how intricate they are. If you look at pictures of the human body where you see what is happening on the inside, you see nerves everywhere.

When I am do my cardiovascular exercises, I don't consciously think about how my thoracic splanchnic nerves are the ones that send a message to my brain that my heart and lungs need more oxygen.

It happens automatically, and my body adjusts as I increase my workout, and when I begin slowing back down.

By andee — On Mar 25, 2012

It is really amazing when you realize how important our nervous system is for our body to function properly.

I visit an osteopathic doctor once a month for a treatment and she often mentions the sympathetic and parasympathetic system, and which part is connected with various parts of my body.

There are many times when I am experiencing headaches or a backache and never imagine it is really a problem with the nerves in my body.

When I realize how many sensory nerves there are throughout my entire body, it is easier to get an idea of how they tie in with the health and function of everything else.

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